Rod Rodgers used the Fraser Tubing Hill for years before he started working there cutting the ropes and sending the kids back down the slope. The cowboy who owned the place, who knew himself most simply as John, charged $3 each way, but he opened the hill in 1971 as a way to attract customers for horseback rides, ice skating and cross-country skiing.
“Then more and more people like us came to use the hill,” Rod said in a phone interview. “So he took out the other stuff and just did the hit.”
Fraser is perhaps the oldest professional tubing hill in Colorado. It’s hard to be sure, but even when Rod started working there in 1982, “there were no tubing hills anywhere,” he said. But Fraser is probably the one who made tubing an achievable attraction. In 1991, Rod had seen enough and bought the place with his brother Monte.
“Fraser has a hell of a reputation,” Rod said. “I just think we’re good at what we do.”
This reputation has spread so far throughout the state that many ski resorts now offer a tubing hill. Other places that offer winter attractions also have them, such as Saddleback Ranch at Steamboat and its “Yee-Haw” hill or the Snow Mountain Ranch tubing hill at Winter Park next to Fraser (winter park the resort also offers one, making the area the Orlando of tubing).
“I think you’d be surprised how many people have them,” said Chris Linsmayer, director of public affairs for Colorado Ski Country USA, who lists 10 resorts on their site with tubes. “It’s a space that the ski industry has really committed to.”
What Fraser offers is friendly but no-frills service and fat tubes for rent in a building that doesn’t look much like your grandfather’s cabin deep in the mountains, save for the bright orange paint job. . Prices have gone up to $25 for an hour, but are on par with other sites, especially the fierce competition next door provided by Colorado Adventure Park. Colorado Adventure inspired a Hatfield-McCoy love affair between the two hills, and Rod admits their close competition, with their prettier buildings and fancy gear, hurt Fraser for a while. But last year was a good one, Rod said, especially as COVID-19 prompted families to come out: “Our hill is a little bigger and steeper.”
Indeed. It’s a cliche to say it, but it’s not your neighborhood tubing hill, even if your friends named one of them “Killer Hill” or something equally ridiculous. The Fraser Hills are fast and, yes, furious, which, along with the tow, inspires amusement park prices.
“It’s like a ride. That’s how I see it,” Rod said. “I compare it to Lakeside and Elitches.”
Tubing hills have taken off over the past six years, Linsmayer said, as resorts try to find ways to compete with each other by investing in non-ski experiences: it’s not enough to offer simply the longer the more pitches, bowls or runs.
“When you’re with family or friends, some may not want to go skiing every day,” Linsmayer said. “Not everyone in this group will necessarily want to go skiing at all.”
Aspen opened a hill at Snowmass, a resort considered by industry and guests alike to be more family-friendly than its candle counterpart, in 2014 to go along with its large ski school and games center.
“People come on vacation to ski and teach the kids,” Tucker Vest Burton said, “but you know the kids. It’s good to have options.
Much like resorts in Las Vegas, ski resorts want to offer full packages, Vest Burton said, to make it more of an experience.
“As part of being a top destination, it’s an extra thing,” Tucker said. “If you’re from New York and want the true experience of a winter destination, for some it’s just skiing, but for others it’s not.”
Some resorts, however, are so happy with their tubing hills that they consider them a main attraction. Monarch Mountain opened its tubing hill just a few years ago and inspired some to make their first visit to Monarch, said Scott Pressly, vice president of mountain operations.
“We have people for tubing who wouldn’t be here otherwise,” Pressly said. “Our goal is maybe they’ll see skiing and snowboarding, and maybe next time they’ll want to try.”
Last year, for example, the park saw record attendance at the tube park, but the station also saw record numbers overall, another influence of COVID-19.
“We’re all trying to grow and diversify our offerings,” Pressly said. “I think a large percentage of our customers are here to go tubing for the first time. It’s not as scary to sit on a tube and slide as it is to ski.
This list doesn’t cover all the hills you can pay to slide, but it’s a good start.
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